Outdated websites are more common than you might think. One of our longtime clients, a nonprofit, expected funding for a brand-new website but the funding fell through (for now). Rebuilding their site is on hold. What do you do when your business’ website isn’t great but needs to keep limping along until you can dedicate the funds?
Unfortunately for this client, their site isn’t built in a way that is easy for them to perform updates. It’s not simple for them to do all the things they want to be able to do. But they still need to be able to keep the site current. We help them limp along where we can.
Another client, a public service, ignored the back end of their site for a long time. And when we took over that site for website maintenance, we noticed a variety of plugins for the site weren’t current. It was a major upgrade to get them current. We got as many plugins up to date as possible. We also discovered it was not easy to manage as currently built. The site required performing a lot of duplicative tasks to add new content such as a blog post or a landing page.
We suggested that they could really use a new website that works better, that’s more up to date and easier to manage. Then, they told us they had someone working on the site for them. Now, a year has passed and the site is still limping along.
How to limp along successfully
Of top importance if you’re going to let an outdated website limp along is making sure that you’re up to date with your website security as much as possible. That generally means your content management systems (CMS) and any plugins or extensions are as current as possible.
Often, the health and safety of your website directly correlates to keeping your CMS and plugins current.
You should also make sure there are regular backups of your site. That way if something breaks while you wait for a new site, you may be able to go back to an older, operational version of your site.
There are things we do for clients’ sites that help make them more accurate, more informative and more user-friendly. Those tactics generally don’t work on sites that are outdated and limping along.
The nonprofit client hoped to be able to update the site’s content on its existing structure. One option was installing a page builder to bypass the restrictive page templates the site was built with so they can present at least some new content to visitors.
One important thing to look at with outdated websites is how to add some functionality without disrupting the site as a whole. For clients whose sites are regularly upgraded, we build new or revamped pages on a staging site. We keep the current version live until we’ve tested the staging pages and are ready to launch.
For the public service client’s site, we were able to source, add and configure a plugin designed to work with their current form plugin. That way PDF files could be generated from form submissions, and form data could be mapped to fields in a PDF template. Through that process, we added new pages and new forms. From a content perspective, at least we moved forward, despite not being able to create a new site.
Are there circumstances where an outdated website site shouldn’t limp along?
If your business has a website – even an outdated website – that customers and prospects visit, it should remain live if at all possible.
What if there have been 20 or 30 versions of your CMS or plugins, both major releases and minor releases? We think it still makes sense to build a staging site, attempt to do the updates and try to make a go with the old site.
The plugin developer may have added or changed the styling or the functionality a little bit. (And that’s OK if, for the most part, the site is functioning, looks decent and is more stable and secure.) There may be a situation where we say, this is the way the site looks now. Can you live with it?
The only reason to shut down your site that we can think of is if it’s completely non-functioning or has been hacked. You don’t want to have a site visible that’s going to infect your website visitors, prospects, customers, computers or financial information.
But, if you’re open for business, we strongly suggest doing something to make it work. Scale the site back to contain only the information somebody might need to find if they visited.
One challenge with scaling back your site to a single page, with just the basic information: it may negatively affect your organic ranking with Google and other search engines, meaning you could be harder to find.
Limping along makes sense if your site is in working order, even if it’s not the greatest site. Do what you can to keep it up to date and keep the content accurate. If possible, continue to do the things you would otherwise do, whether it’s adding press releases or blog posts or event information and news.
Keep doing it because not doing it could be worse in the long run.
If your website is hacked
If you fall into an unfortunate circumstance where your site is hacked and have to take the site down, there may be a malware removal system or tools that can get your site back. Or you may be able to use a DIY website builder to have a basic site up with a few clicks of a button.
But, more than likely you would still need someone to either code an HTML page with a simple message, or someone would need to reinstall your systems and build some sort of landing page in place of your full site. If we were restoring a site like that, we would install WordPress and a page builder and build the new landing/home page that way.
These aren’t ideal circumstances but we’ve seen it happen. Not every small business thinks to check the back end of their site. That’s where we can help. We’ll go through the back door of your outdated website, push through the cobwebs and find some light at the end of the tunnel for both you and your site.